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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I want to speak briefly today about some broken promises related to the health care bill, specifically, President Obama's promise that if Americans liked their current coverage, they would be able to keep it.

Remember that promise. Last June, the President promised on national television that:

Government is not going to make you change plans under health reform.

In his September address to Congress, he reassured Americans:

If you have health insurance through your job, nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

Well, those two statements are true as far as they go. The law does not require. The problem is, everything written into the law will, nevertheless, result in that happening.

What we are seeing is new developments every week that prove that what we had said would happen will, in fact, happen. Many Americans are not going to be able to keep the coverage they have, even though they like it. That includes many who have employer-based coverage in addition to many seniors who rely on private Medicare plans known as Medicare Advantage.

So how does this happen? First, with regard to the 170 million Americans who have employer-based coverage, regulations are being written right now by the administration, specifically by the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments and the IRS that will have a direct impact on people not being able to keep their plans.

These regulations deal with existing plans called ``grandfathered plans.'' Grandfathered status was supposed to allow employers to continue offering their current plans even if they did not meet all of the government's new cost-increasing mandates and requirements, such as minimum standards for what a plan must offer. That was the whole point of grandfathering.

It was also intended to protect Americans enrolled in their plans from ``rate shock'' or significant premium increases as a result of the new government mandates. But according to the administration's own report, new regulations could mean that two-thirds of all workers at small businesses would have to relinquish their grandfathered status, exposing them to these new mandates and requirements.

The worst-case scenario, according to the report, is that a whopping 80 percent of small firms' plans would lose their grandfathered status. By 2013, the report concludes, more than half of all workers' plans, 51 percent, will be subject to new Federal requirements. So much for the idea that if you like your plan you get to keep it.

These requirements drive up the cost of insurance, impede an employer's ability to adjust to rising health care costs, and ultimately provide an incentive to employers to drop their coverage altogether and instead pay a fine or, to put it another way, it creates a disincentive to keeping your coverage and an incentive to dropping their coverage and forcing them to buy the coverage through the so-called exchange.

The individual mandate provision in the bill would then require these workers whose coverage has been dropped to purchase the government-approved insurance from the new government-dictated exchange, replete with the highest costs, more mandates, and so on.

Of the new regulations, James Gelfand, who is health policy director
at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said:

These rules are extremely strict. Almost no plan is going to be able to maintain grandfathered status.

So what has happened? The President said: If you like your plan, you get to keep it. We will grandfather it in.

Now the rules and regulations are being written in such a way that virtually none of the plans will be grandfathered so that the employers all have an incentive to send their employees to the new health exchange and therefore to drop the coverage they currently have and like.

This frankly validates concerns that we voiced throughout the debate, that despite the President's claims, his health care bill will force Americans to accept unwanted health care coverage changes and that, in fact, therefore it amounts to a government takeover of health care.

I mentioned American seniors. This is the second area in which they will not get to keep their plans even though they like them. The White House recently sent out a promotional mailer to seniors, saying:

Your guaranteed Medicare benefits won't change--whether you get them through original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead, you will see new benefits and cost savings.

Wrong. Seniors are normally skeptical about such a claim, given the President's bill is funded by $ 1/2 trillion in Medicare cuts. Republicans brought this up repeatedly during the health care debate. Democrats assured seniors not to worry, that if they liked their plan they could keep it. They were promised the law would strengthen Medicare. Yet now we are seeing and hearing from the experts that millions of seniors too will lose their Medicare Advantage benefits.

In fact, the White House's claims to the contrary are flatly contradicted by the administration's own expert, Richard Foster. He is the CMS Actuary, and he says:

The new provisions [in the health care law] will generally reduce [Medicare Advantage] rebates to plans and thereby result in less generous benefits packages.

That is the administration's own actuary telling us that seniors who have Medicare Advantage will not get to keep what they have. Here is how a Wall Street Journal op-ed summed up the expert's conclusions:

In an April memo, Richard Foster estimated that the $206 billion hole in Advantage will reduce benefits, cause insurers to withdraw from the program, and reduce overall enrollment by half. Doug Elmendorf and his team at the Congressional Budget Office came to the same conclusion, as did every other honest expert.

In conclusion, we have a number of experts, not partisans, on the record saying that seniors who use Medicare Advantage will see their benefits eliminated and their coverage changed.

The administration is trying to soften the blow by sending some seniors a $250 rebate check. I am sure people are happy to get the check. But it is not much of a gain for those seniors who face skyrocketing premiums and may not have access to the same Medicare Advantage plans they now enjoy.

These developments are consistent with a pattern. It is a pattern ever since the bill was passed and signed into law by the President of broken promises. Americans never liked or wanted this bill, and they are continually reminded why they opposed it in the first place. The fact is, it turns out they will not get to keep what they have even if they like it. That is just one of the reasons why a strong majority of Americans want to see it repealed.


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